Tag Archives: Jackie Robinson

The last team to have a Black player

JULY 21, 1959 • CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – Elijah “Pumpsie” Green was put in as a pinch runner for the Boston Red Sox on this night in 1959. The Red Sox became the last team to have a Black player. It completed what Jackie Robinson started in 1947. Every other major league team had had an African American in the lineup by this time.

It was a bumpy road for Green through the Red Sox system. He was invited to training camp in Scottsdale, Arizona that spring and reportedly had a good one, but was sent to the Red Sox minor league team in Minneapolis to start the season.

The Boston chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) asked for an investigation to determine if Green had been discriminated against as a player and in the housing he was provided. According to a July 22, 1959 United Press International story, the Red Sox said “they would call a Negro player when they developed one of major league caliber in their farm system.” The Red Sox now believed they had “a Negro of major league caliber,” and the team was cleared of discrimination.

Here are the first Black players (in the modern era*) for each team and the season of their first game:

Jackie Robinson
Larry Doby
Hank Thompson
Monte Irvin
Sam Jethroe
Minnie Minoso
Bob Trice
Ernie Banks
Curt Roberts
Tom Alston
Nino Escalera
Chuck Harmon
Carlos Paula
Elston Howard
John Kennedy
Ozzie Virgil
Pumpsie Green
Brooklyn , 1947
Cleveland , 1947
St. Louis , 1947
New York Giants, 1949
Boston Braves, 1950
Chicago White Sox, 1951
Philadelphia Athletics, 1953
Chicago Cubs 1953
Pittsburgh , 1954
St. Louis Cardinals, 1954
Cincinnati Reds, 1954
Cincinnati Reds, 1954
Washington Senators 1954
New York Yankees, 1955
Philadelphia Phillies, 1957
Detroit Tigers, 1958
Boston Red Sox

*Blacks were not allowed to play in the major leagues from the late 1800s until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947 because of a “gentleman’s agreement” between the owners.

CONTRIBUTING SOURCES:
Baseball-Almanac famous firsts
United Press International, July 22, 1959
Cap Anson, instigator of the Gentleman’s Agreement

April 15-A BLACK MAN IN THE LINEUP. WHAT A CONCEPT

1947 | BROOKLYN, NEW YORK Jackie Robinson became the first African American major league baseball player of the modern era on this date in 1947. He went hitless, but handled 11 chances at first base to help the Brooklyn Dodgers (today’s Los Angeles Dodgers) beat the Boston Braves (today’s Atlanta Braves) 5-3.

As the description “first African America of the modern era,” implies, Jackie Robinson was not first Black major leaguer. There were a few others, but you had to go back to the late 1800s to find them. An unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” created a color barrier in major league baseball from roughly the late 1880s until 1947.

Many point the finger at Chicago White Stockings (the modern day Cubs) star Cap Anson for leading the charge to exclude Blacks. The story is, Anson refused to take the field in an 1883 exhibition game against the Toledo Blue Stockings because they had an African American catcher. Even if true, Anson was certainly not alone in his bigotry. By the end of the decade the “gentleman’s agreement” was in force barring teams from signing Black players. The color barrier lasted until the Dodgers’ Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson in 1947.

Ironically, the Black player Cap Anson reportedly threatened a boycott over was probably the smartest man on the field. Moses Fleetwood Walker studied Greek, French, German, Latin and math at Oberlin College in Ohio before going to law school at the University of Michigan.

  • Jackie’s brother Mack Robinson was also an exceptional athlete. He came in second behind Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany.

Additional Source:
Spalding’s World Tour, Page 68, by Mark Lamster, 2006